At Acquire the Fire I picked up a free copy of a book at the booth next to me. Dr. Yohannan is founder and international director of Gospel for Asia. He was born in India, and later moved to the States with his wife, Gisela.
I was challenged by what he had to say. Most of it was not entirely new information, but it solidified a lot of conclusions I'd drawn that had been floating around in my head.
This book says that the time for Western missionaries going into Asia to preach the gospel is over. There are many reasons for this:
1. Most countries in the 10/40 window are closed. Western missionaries cannot go into the country and preach the gospel freely. Some go in under the banner of charitable aid, but hundreds of years of colonization in Asia and India show that there is little long term yield.
"History already has taught us that this gospel-without the blood of Christ, conversion and the cross-is a total failure. In China and India we have had seven generations of this teaching, brought to us by the British missionaries in a slightly different form in the middle of the 19th-century. My people have watched the English hospitals and schools come and go without any noticeable effect on either our churches or society...The trouble with the social gospel, even when it is clothes in religious garb and operating within Christian institutions, is that is seeks to fight what is basically a spiritual warfare with weapons of the flesh."
2. Indigenous peoples are the best to reach their own countrymen. They know the language and the culture. They do not try to 'westernize' their converts. And it takes only around $1,000 a year to support an Indigenous missionary, where a Western Missionary takes anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000.
The biggest criticism in his book is on the American Church. He states that God has blessed our nation with more abundance and freedom of influence than any country in the history of the world. Instead of using our blessings in turn to bless others, we hoard our treasures, pouring our monies into building projects, social reform, classes, groups, and programs.
"A friend in Dallas recently pointed out a new church building that cost $74 million. While this thought was still exploding in my mind, he pointed out another $7 million church building going up less than a minute away. These extravagant buildings are insanity from a Two-Thirds World perspective. The $74 million spent on one new building in the United States could build more than $7,000 average-sized churches in India. The same $74 million would be enough to guarantee the evangelization of a whole state-or even some of the smaller countries of Asia..."
"Religion, I discovered, is a multi-billion dollar business in the United States. Entering churches, I was astonished at the carpeting, furnishings, air conditioning and ornamentation. Many churches have gymnasiums and fellowships that cater to a busy schedule of activities having little or nothing to do with Christ. The orchestras, choirs, "special" music-and sometimes even the preaching-seems to me more like entertainment that worship. Many North American Christians live isolated from reality-not only from the needs of the poor overseas, but even from the poor in their own cities. Amidst all the affluence live millions of terribly poor people left behind as Christians have moved into the suburbs. I found that believers are ready to get involved in almost any activity that looks spiritual but allows them to escape their responsibility to the Gospel."
I found this book very challenging. The call to live simply and give "even beyond our means" has been on my heart for a long time. I was also thrilled to learn that in a book based on the premise that missions money would be better spent sending money to native leaders than sending ourselves, the three ministries he commended were Wycliffe Bible Translators, Youth With a Mission, and Operation Mobilization.